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CHOP reexamines South Broad

Three Newbold locations could become more closely linked through a renowned hospital’s intervention.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 29, 2012

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Health Center No. 2, from left, the South Philadelphia Branch and DiSilvestro Playground could undergo change.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Upon taking office in 2008, Mayor Michael Nutter stated he wanted Philadelphia to become America’s greenest city. His March 8 Fiscal Year ’13 budget and Fiscal Year ’13-’17 Five-Year Plan proposals revealed he would love for it to end up as the healthiest, too.

Among numerous aspects of the $3.6 billion collection of ideas, the second-term leader announced the City’s proposed uniting with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to devise a pediatric and adult care services facility on the site of Health Center No. 2, 1720 S. Broad St. The plan would remove CHOP, the primary fund seeker and lone financier, from the St. Agnes Medical Center, 1900 S. Broad St., which with 30,000 patients is the fastest growing practice in the hospital’s care center network, spokesman George V. Bochanski Jr. said, and give families one location for aid. Other sources also could enable the rebuilding of the South Philadelphia Branch, 1700 S. Broad St., and continued improvements to DiSilvestro Playground, 1701 S. 15th St., creating a close trio of health helpers.

“If all three projects come to fruition, everybody will end up winning,” Bochanski, whose employer has operated at St. Agnes for 40 years, said of the design to enhance well-being, literacy and recreation.

Though the library and playground projects are developing gradually, the main element has been gaining zealous support since its autumn genesis. Hospital officials, with no space to expand St. Agnes, asked Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity Donald F. Schwarz if any South Broad Street location could accommodate their clinic, Bochanski said. The Department of Public Health’s second-busiest primary-care clinic with 53,563 visits last year, Health Center No. 2 became the choice. CHOP has begun to appropriate funds for the projected transition and will seek donor aid to make its vision more feasible. The entity’s benefactor role may ease taxpayers’ concerns, too, as Health Center No. 2 renovations would cost $7 million and rebuilding it would total $10 million, according to a City release.

Hearings on Nutter’s ideas will occur through May 9, with City Council charged with approving a budget by month’s end. Specifics on the new center’s price tag remain incomplete, yet other undertakings, including the other Newbold projects, have affiliated costs.

A $4.1-million initiative would keep the police force at 6,500 officers by hiring 400 officers by the end of next fiscal year. The police and health departments would share the proposed $9 million University City venue that would serve as their headquarters. Six police stations and 11 firehouses would receive improvements through a $6.7-million allotment, with $7 million designed to cover a three-year Neighborhood Library Improvement Program and $8.7 million to improve recreation centers. The last two figures could help South Philly to establish what Bochanski sees as an unprecedented and inspirational marriage of resources.

“Literacy has such importance in multiple areas of life,” he said of hopes to bring an offshoot of CHOP’s Reach Out and Read program to the 47-year-old branch. “Recreation also helps to engage communities in acquiring management of the body and mind.”

 

Philadelphia’s eight health centers often tend to the city’s neediest residents, as around half of last year’s 339,000 visits involved patients without insurance, with the local site being above the system average, health department spokesman Jeff Moran said, noting 81 percent of treated clients had incomes below the poverty level, which sits at $19,090 for a family of three.

As St. Agnes also serves low-income populations, children and adults could find the projected institution, which the City has said it would like to open within three years, a haven for their dual dilemmas.

“St. Agnes is too cramped to help all of the area’s needs,” Bochanski said. “We are excited about the timing of the opportunity.”

Nutter, who dubbed his strategy a means “to innovate and rethink how City government is operated in order to improve the lives of all Philadelphians,” voiced similar anticipation.

“The possibility of integrating these three new facilities — health center, library and rec center — would allow us to provide coordinated services that include much-needed health and wellness programming and literacy training,” he said.

Nutter made apparent that the CHOP trek to Health Center No. 2 has strong backing while stressing the remaining area ideas need extra championing. Regardless of their precarious status, the latter plans are not short on support.

The South Philadelphia Branch opened at Broad and Ritner streets Nov. 24, 1914, closing in ’65. That same year saw its relocation to its present spot, and renovations occurred in 2000 as part of the City’s Changing Lives campaign, which the branch website said brought Internet service to every library.

“There is no concrete information yet about the idea to combine a health center and library in South Philadelphia since this project is in a very early stage,” Sandra Horrocks, the Free Library’s vice president of external affairs, said. “We do, however, have a very close connection with Children’s Hospital. In fact, [CEO Dr.] Steve Altshuler is on our Board of Trustees and is committed to the library and the work of our branches.”

Bochanski said CHOP could supply numerous programs and reading specialists to the book sanctuary to strengthen familial appreciation for literacy.

“The connection between literacy and health is undeniable,” he said. “Having the first allows one to research how to obtain the second.”

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